As the National Museum of African American Music opens its doors, journalists from the USA TODAY Network explore the stories, places and people who helped make music what it is today in our expansive series, Hallowed Sound.

Motown Records’ creative ingenuity and commercial prowess made it a hit machine, one that’s still chugging along today — indeed, a list of Motown classics could fill a book. For now, here are 50 essential singles from Motown’s Detroit era, defined as 1959-1972, as selected by the Detroit Free Press and its readers to commemorate the label’s 50th anniversary.

 

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